Updated: 03/03/2014 03:26 | By Agence France-Presse

Gunshots, panic and tears on China's night of terror

Witnesses of a horrifying attack at a Chinese train station which killed 29 people and wounded more than 130 described Sunday how injured victims fled in panic amid the sound of gunshots.


Gunshots, panic and tears on China's night of terror

Chinese police stand guard at the scene of an attack at the main train station in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014 - by Mark Ralston

A heavy police presence was in place at Kunming station in the southwestern province of Yunnan after knife-wielding attackers slashed indiscriminately as people queued to buy tickets late Saturday, an incident blamed by authorities on separatists from the restive Xinjiang region.

A station cleaner, who gave his surname as He, said police fired on the assailants for about half an hour as scores of people were being carried out on stretchers with bandaged wounds.

State media said at least four attackers were shot dead, while one was arrested. The hunt for others continues.

"I saw five of them leaving... Then I heard gunshots. (It was) likely to be going on for half an hour," said He, adding he felt terrified returning to work the morning after the bloodshed.

Recalling the horror felt by people at the station the previous night, the cleaner said: "I felt frightened, everyone ran out. The streets were blocked (by police).

"I saw five people holding knives, walking slowly down there to the bus station," he added, pointing in the distance at the busy intersection that fronts the main rail terminal for Yunnan province.

The 49-year-old said he saw some of the 130 people who were said by authorities to have been wounded in the attack being taken away on mobile stretchers, their heads "wrapped in bandages".

"I saw adults, no kids," he said, adding: "The ambulances must have been too busy, as the buses and taxis were being used."

A shop worker nearby told AFP some of the victims took refuge in her store.

"Many were crying and some looked like they had been cut. We were terrified," she said, pointing to a space behind a row of instant noodles where the panic-stricken victims had sought shelter.

"Everyone in Kunming is still in shock."

Parts of the sprawling train station were still cordoned off by police on Sunday afternoon, as locals took pictures of the scene with their phones, many shaking their heads.

Armed police stood behind tape which closed off the temporary waiting area -- which AFP was told witnessed the first scenes of carnage -- at the front of the station.

Further inside the station, where the attackers were said to have fanned out as they continued their frenzied assault, long queues of commuters waited patiently at the main ticket hall.

It was far removed from the chilling violence witnessed the night before, in what state media have called "China's 9/11".

"I can't believe this has happened in my city," said one commuter, looking around at hundreds of people in the hall, all wearing identical stunned expressions.

"But we have to continue with our lives, or the attackers would have won."

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